Tag Archives: zucchini

summer tomatoes and a savory zucchini bread {les culinettes}

Summer tomatoes may seem like an odd thing to post about right now, as most other North American food bloggers are fully in fall’s sway. But now that I have this silly wedding business behind me, I’m catching up with a few odds and ends- blog posts I’ve been sitting on; photos I’ve been meaning to edit; recipes I wanted to share. Besides, the particular recipe I have for you today- a savory zucchini-tomato bread- is actually more suited to this time of year, because who wants to turn up the oven on a sweltering August day? (Oh, that’s right, I did.) This bread, though- if you still have a glut of zucchini but are tired of sweet zucchini bread, this is the ticket. It’s rich, eggy, cheesy and perfect for a cool fall day, and it keeps for a few days because of how moist it is. Also, if you’re grabbing bushels of Roma tomatoes to make these roasted Romas, this is a great use for them. Mine were from last year (roasted and frozen in olive oil) but they held up beautifully. If you don’t have tomatoes you can throw in a handful of black olives, or even a little diced ham.

The last meeting of our cooking club took place on August 12 and as we have a seasonal bent, we celebrated the tomato. Once again, I wondered how we would pull off 8 or so dishes with the same ingredient in common and not have it be “too much”, and once again, I needn’t have worried. From just-picked to barely cooked to long-simmered to roasted, the permutations were as creative as they were delicious. Sarah skewered fresh tomatoes with melons, basil and mozzarella for a salad on a stick. Molly puréed tomatoes from her garden with peaches and a little yogurt and garnished it with tarragon for a chilled summer soup, a riff on a Mark Bittman recipe. Amy, ever the fancy-pants (I say this with the utmost admiration!), stuffed squash blossoms with seasoned diced eggplant, fried them and set them on a bed of barely-cooked tomato sauce. Heavenly.

Speaking of heavenly, I want to digress just for a moment here to talk about our hostess Abigail and her stunning Ann Arbor home, which you can see a tiny glimpse of in a couple of these photos. I hope it doesn’t embarrass her if I say that I was absolutely enamored with her house and its decor, a perfect blend of old world/antique and whimsical modern. The house itself is in amazing condition, with original woodwork throughout, a gorgeous fireplace and many other cool details. And the landscaping- let’s just say gardening is Abigail’s labor of love, and it shows. Much of Abigail’s decor, including the “most beautiful chandelier in the world” (as she told her husband to convince him they needed to buy it and ship it back) was purchased during their time living in Italy. I’m guessing the heavy linens on the dining table were of European provenance as well- you just can’t buy stuff like that at a department store.

Of course it’s no surprise that such impeccable taste would carry over to the kitchen. Our hostess made two knockout dishes, one an appetizer with multiple components, the other a homey potato gratin (in a vintage enameled casserole, no less). The appetizer was composed of a whipped chive goat cheese and a deeply savory tomato-shallot-vinegar compote topped with a basil leaf, on little almond biscuits. The sweet cookie-like biscuits were unexpected but totally worked. It was a struggle not to devour too many, as we all wanted to save room for dinner.

It’s been well over a month since this dinner and I’m struggling to remember what Emily and Meghan brought- please forgive me, ladies! I believe the roasted tomatoes with capers and mozzarella were Meghan’s contribution, and Emily brought a simple salad of tomatoes from her garden. She was understandably much too busy to prepare anything more complex (not that she needed to anyway), as she was getting married the following weekend. Congratulations Emily! I don’t think I would have even been able to attend any social events the week before our wedding, as I was so busy taking care of last minute details, but she seemed much more organized than I.

As usual, we had a grand old time eating, drinking and making merry. We were privileged to have been joined by Abigail’s old school friend Chiara, who was visiting from Brooklyn on her first weekend away from her kids. I hope we showed her a proper good time. Kids, if you’re reading, she was fighting back the tears pining for you the whole time. Really!

Some say a bride experiences a let-down after the wedding, when there is no longer a big event to focus on, and the attention dwindles. I don’t feel this way in the slightest, at least not yet- on the contrary, I’m really excited to have time once again to cook and have dinner parties. I will of course post about the wedding very soon, once I get our photos and have some time to digest everything, so to speak. The ultra-short summary is that we had the time of our lives and the food was to die for. But I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen, so here’s hoping we’ll plan another Culinettes party ASAP!

Savory Zucchini Bread with Roasted Tomatoes and Parmesan
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The inspiration for this recipe is the savory “cakes” served in France as part of the apéro (pre-dinner drinks and snacks). The first time I made it, I used roasted tomatoes and black olives, but wanted to adapt it to make use of the overabundance of zucchini in gardens and markets at the end of summer. The results are a delicious departure from sweet, muffin-like zucchini breads.

Prep: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 large loaves or 4 small loaves

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 ounces Parmesan or other hard cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 large eggs
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup roasted Roma tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup grated shallot or onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or other fresh herbs of your choice)

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease 2 loaf pans or four mini loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cheese, salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the wine and olive oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the egg/wine mixture in. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated; do not over-mix. Lumps are fine. Fold in the vegetables and rosemary. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake until the top is golden and crusty and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes for small loaves and an hour for large loaves (please note that I didn’t make large loaves so I can’t vouch for the timing- keep an eye on them and test to be sure).

summer’s last hurrah: roasted vegetable ratatouille

ratatouille on plate 3

farmers market tableAll of my food friends have been all atwitter the last couple weeks about pumpkins, apples and other fruits of fall, but I’ve been having a harder time letting go of summer flavors.  It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that the whole summer had gone by and I hadn’t made any ratatouille- how did that happen?!  Luckily the folks at the farmers’ market still had tomatoes, peppers and eggplant [NB: this was 2 weeks ago, on Oct. 3]- I just had to go to the store for squash, but happily it was locally grown too.

I realize this recipe isn’t very timely*, but it takes me a while to get a blog post up these days.   I bought the vegetables and didn’t get to make the ratatouille until the following weekend.  (That’s one of the perks of the farmers’ market though- it’s so fresh that even if it sits around for a week, it’s still probably fresher than what’s at the store.) Tack another week on there to edit photos and write up a post and before you know it, it’s already mid-October! I’m trying to be Zenlike about the fact that I have almost no free time these days, and just make sure to fully take advantage of any little scrap that I do have, but it’s hard not to be a little bummed out.  For example, I really wanted to make the pho recipe for this month’s Daring Cooks, and the date rushed up on me before I could plan it out.  (Sadly, all of my cooking has to be planned with near-military precision these days, or it just can’t fit in…)

ratatouille in potBut on to our ratatouille!  I’ve made ratatouille lots of times and had pretty good results, but this time I was after something specific: I wanted the vegetables to have that melting quality, but to keep their shape and flavor rather than be cooked down into an indistinguishable mush.  The solution?  Roasting.  Not only does roasting help them retain their “integrity”, but you get the additional element of caramelization that you wouldn’t get from cooking them all together on the stove.  Plus, you remove moisture and concentrate the flavor.  My guinea pigs, aka Marvin & Amanda, said they could definitely taste the difference.  I think this one’s a keeper!  I served it with creamy polenta with Parmigiano and some kale that I’d sautéed with olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes.  Along with a green salad, some bread and cheeses, and a couple bottles of red, it was the perfect goodbye-to-summer vegetarian feast.

blackened peppers

*I know this is borderline heretical, but if you’re in need of a summer food fix in the middle of winter, all of the ingredients for this can be found year-round at the grocery store, and I am hard-pressed to tell the difference between squash & eggplant from a greenhouse or from a garden once they’re cooked.  The tomatoes won’t be quite as good, but Romas are fairly dependable, and roasting definitely goes a long way towards improving them.  Or you could always substitute a can of good-quality San Marzanos.

roasted tomatoes 1

Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille
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This is a very loose “recipe” because ultimately I think this is a dish that has a lot of flexibility, and however you prepare it, it’s unlikely to be bad as long as you have good ingredients.  But here’s what I used and how I  went about it; use it as a guideline and go for it!

2 pints Roma tomatoes
3 bell peppers- red, yellow or orange
2 zucchini
2 yellow summer squash
1 eggplant
2-3 onions
3-4 cloves garlic
fresh herbs- I grabbed some marjoram, thyme, and a little rosemary from my garden, although basil is good too
sea salt
olive oil

Wash and pat dry the peppers, and place them in the broiler, turning occasionally and checking on them often, until they’re blackened on all sides.  Place in a paper grocery bag and roll the top shut; set aside.  Reduce oven to 300°.

raw veg on sheets

While the peppers are roasting, cut the squash and eggplant into large-ish chunks (see photos; they’ll shrink a bit as they roast).  Generously salt the eggplant and place in a strainer while you prep everything else.  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and remove the little stemmy bit; put cut side up on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little salt and brush or drizzle with olive oil.  Cut the onions- I like to do wedge-shaped slices rather than rings.  Mince any herbs you’ll be using.

Place the squash & zucchini in a large bowl, salt lightly, and drizzle with olive oil.  Shake the bowl around so the oil gets distributed all over, then dump it onto a baking sheet.  Put the eggplant on some paper towel and press lightly to remove excess moisture and salt, then toss with olive oil, putting it on a separate baking sheet.  Place all three baking sheets in the oven.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins, stems and seeds, and cut into approx 1″ squares; set aside in a bowl.

In a dutch oven or other large heavy pot, heat a generous amount of olive oil (a few Tbs) over medium heat.  Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions begin to soften.  Add any minced herbs you’re using (except basil- add that at the end) and hold, covered, over low heat.

Check on the vegetables in the oven periodically- they’ll be ready at slightly different times.  I kept the tomatoes in about 10 minutes longer than the squash. Ultimately your cooking time will depend on how big you cut everything.  As the eggplant and squash are ready, add them to the pot with the onions and keep warm over low heat.  Add the peppers and any juices that have collected.  When the tomatoes are ready, let them cool enough to handle, and cut each half into quarters, adding to the pot.  Make sure to scrape any of the juice that collects on the cutting board into the pot as well!

Raise the heat slightly (to medium low) and cook the vegetables just until the flavors combine- remember, we’re going for distinguishable pieces rather than stew.  Taste for salt (although you shouldn’t need any, since the vegetables were already salted).  If you’re using basil, cut it into a chiffonade and stir it in at the end.  Serve with polenta or couscous for a vegetarian meal, or as a side dish to roasted chicken or lamb.  Leftovers can be used as filling for an omelette or put it in a baguette with some goat cheese… lots of possibilities with this one!